An artist who lived in direct provision in Clonakilty after moving here from Togo at the age of six, is using music to help others in the same challenging situation,writes Elaine Desmond
‘THE more I speak the more I heal.’
So says Raphael Olympio, spoken word-artiste, singer-songwriter, rapper, youth mentor, workshop facilitator and university student.
He is equally both rapper and poet and used both these talents recently in six weekly music workshops with children living in Clonakilty’s direct provision centre.
In his workshops Raphael uses music as a tool of expression, he creates a safe space to speak and be.
‘Music allows children to share their experiences,’ he said.
Raphael explains many children living in direct provision find it difficult to share their feelings and experiences but music is a channel to express these.
He uses various techniques to gather information. — icebreakers, role play and exploratory questions with songwriting and music making. It is all about finding the right balance as role play can reveal sensitive, personal issues but the vulnerability of each child is respected.
The group will draw inspiration from their favourite music. One of his own influential totems is Felicia Olusanya, or FelisSpeaks. Her poem For Our Mothers is currently on the English Leaving Certificate curriculum. FelisSpeaks’ powerful spoken word performances ‘pulled the heartstrings’ and ‘wowed’ him. Her poetry focuses on personal experiences and community. Raphael’s new album ABCD – A Black Child Dilemma is also inspired by his own life story and community.
Raphael knows how speaking about traumatic experiences can heal. He was six years old when he left Togo with his family. Trauma occurred when travelling from his home, compounded by later trying to recreate a new home.
He was socially anxious living in Clonakilty’s direct provision Centre before relocating to Togher in Cork city. Raphael constantly questioned his future as uncertainty ticked through every aspect of life. He also realises how difficult it was for his parents trying to raise their children in a new country. Now his future is far from uncertain as he enters his final year of occupational therapy in UCC.
He loves Cork and will stay in Ireland because it is now his home. A recording of the Clonakilty group’s output will be created after the workshop ends.